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Ipswich: Primary school places set to be in demand with increase in pupils

PUBLISHED: 13:48 25 March 2013 | UPDATED: 13:48 25 March 2013

Josh, 8, and brother Jacob, 5, have to attend different schools - two miles apart

Josh, 8, and brother Jacob, 5, have to attend different schools - two miles apart

Archant

PRIMARY schools in the town are set to be expanded to cope with the predicted influx of new pupils, The Star can reveal today.

Case study of a parent struggling with primary school places:

Mother of three Emily Vincent knows all too the well the problem of getting primary school places.

Although she used to live in Beaconsfield Road, which is in the Handford Hall Primary School catchment area, her eldest son Josh, now eight, was given a place in Springfield.

When it came to her younger son Jake, five, he was given a place in Whitton, despite her first two choices being nearby Springfield and Handford Hall.

She said: “I don’t drive so it would have been impossible getting both of the boys to the schools. I kept Jake back for a term and he was on the waiting list for Springfield and Handford Hall.”

Jake finally got in at Handford Hall, which is still an inconvenience.

Miss Vincent, 29, who now lives in Ravensfield Road, said: “I drop Josh off at Springfield and carry on to Handford Hall to drop Jack off. It means walking a couple of miles a day for Jake and he is only five years old.

“Apparently there are enough school places as a whole in the town but not in the areas people want them.

“I think the expansion of these schools is needed. It is bad enough already now. A lot of people are not getting their first or second choices.

“Even though Riley [one year old] is quite young, I am worried about it now. I am going to have some issues because schools in the town centre seem to be really sought after.”

Ipswich is one of a few places in the country which has been identified as being at high risk of not having enough primary school spots in 2014/15 for the numbers of children, according to a report by the National Audit Office.

However Suffolk County Council is confident enough places will be available and has contingency plans in place, including the expansion of four schools in the town.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “We can assure parents in Ipswich that we have enough school places for their children.

“We monitor population forecasts very closely and have contingency plans in place to cope with increased demand. This includes expanding four primary schools in the town, temporary arrangements which we are seeking to make permanent and agreements with other schools to provide extra places, pending further consultations.

“Whilst demand across the town varies, we’re confident that enough places will be available.”

It is expected that the decision to expand the four schools – Hillside Primary, St Margaret’s C of E, Cliff Lane Primary and Rushmere Hall Primary – will be taken in July, and if approved, work will begin later this year.

Neil Challis, headteacher of Rushmere Hall Primary, explained that some building work has already started to cater for extra pupils.

“We are taking in 30 extra pupils each year for five years, along with additional teachers. For every new group coming through, we have to provide enough teachers for them,” he said.

David Ellesmere, Ipswich Borough Council leader, said: “This is a recognised demographic issue. Birth rates tend to go in waves. We are seeing there is this bulge in children coming through the system at the moment.

“One of the ways we can help is as a planning authority. The plans we have for the north of Ipswich [the northern fringe development] includes new schools. Also when there are any new houses being built in significant numbers, there is a planning agreement that the developer must make a contribution to the county council to go towards new schools.”

The NAO report stated that in total, 256,000 new school places are needed across the country by 2014-15 – 240,000 in primary schools.

Graham White, secretary of the Suffolk National Union of Teachers, added: “My concern is that there will be enough teachers, teaching assistants and resources for those particular schools to meet the needs of each and every pupil.”

The county council spokesman said the school gets funding per pupil to cover the cost of additional resources.


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